The 50 Best French Actors and Actresses

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1.
Jean-Louis Trintignant
Actor, Amour
Born 1930 in Piolenc in south France as son of a wealthy industrialist. Studied law in Aix-en-Provence. Started theatrical acting in 1950, but was regarded untalented at first, until Roger Vadim discovered him for the movies. When the press stalked him 1956 because of rumors of an affair with Brigitte Bardot his partner in ...And God Created Woman...
 
3.
Philippe Noiret
Actor, Il Postino
Philippe Noiret was one of French cinema's most familiar faces who appeared in more than 140 films in a career that spanned more than half a century. He was born on October 1, 1930, in Lille, Nord, France, into a middle class family of shopkeepers. His father was fond of literature. Young Noiret attended the College Janson-of-Sally in the 16th arrondissement in Paris...
 
4.
Michel Piccoli
Born in a musician's family, he spent the first fifteen years of his career appearing both on stage and on screen, mostly in supporting roles. His breakthrough came after Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and about 100 films, ranging from art-house movies to commercial mainstream, followed. He won the...
 
5.
Jeanne Moreau
Actress, Jules and Jim
When people gave Louis Malle credit for making a star of Jeanne Moreau in Elevator to the Gallows immediately followed by The Lovers, he would point out that Moreau by that time had already been "recognized as the prime stage actress of her generation." She had made it to the Comédie Française in her 20s...
 
6.
Michèle Morgan
A classic beauty, blonde French actress Michèle Morgan has been one of her country's most popular leading ladies for over five decades. Born in 1920, she studied acting under René Simon and began her career at 15 working as a film extra to pay for drama classes. The young actress soon caught the eye of director Marc Allégret...
 
7.
Sophie Marceau
Actress, Braveheart
Sophie Marceau was born Sophie Danièle Sylvie Maupu in Paris, France, to Simone (Morisset), a shop assistant, and Benoît Maupu, a truck driver. She grew up far from the studio spotlights. When she was 14 she was living in the Paris suburb of Gentilly with her father. She learned from friends that director Claude Pinoteau was looking for new faces for a movie about teenagers called The Party...
 
8.
Christopher Lambert
Although born in the USA, Lambert is French. His father was a French diplomat stationed in the US at the United Nations at the time of Lambert's birth. Lambert's formative years were spent in Geneva, Switzerland, to where his family moved when he was two, before returning to Paris when he was 16. Lambert has served in the French military, allegedly at his father's insistence.
 
9.
Isabelle Adjani
Actress, Queen Margot
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani was born in Gennevilliers, Hauts-de-Seine, a suburb of Paris, to Emma Augusta "Gusti" (Schweinberger) and Mohammed Adjani. Her father was a Kabyle Algerian, from Iferhounène, and her mother was a Bavarian German. She grew up speaking German fluently. After winning a school recitation contest...
 
10.
Fanny Ardant
Fanny Ardent was the youngest of 5 children born to a cavalry officer and his wife. She was raised in Monte Carlo where she was educated at a convent school. A voracious reader, she discovered Proust at age 15 and felt as though his writings were for her. When she was 17 her father died and the shock of his loss never left her...
 
11.
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Actor, Breathless
The son of the renowned French sculptor Paul Belmondo, he studied at Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique (CNSAD); after the minor stage performances he made his screen debut in À pied, à cheval et en voiture but the episodes with his participation were cut before release. However, the breakthrough role in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless made him one of the key figures in the French New Wave...
 
12.
Sarah Bernhardt
This celebrated star of the French stage had a sporadic love-hate affair with early cinema. After her film debut in Le duel d'Hamlet she declared she detested the medium; yet she consented to appear in another film, La Tosca. Upon seeing the results, she reportedly recoiled in horror, demanding that the negative be destroyed...
 
13.
Jacques Tati
The comic genius Jacques Tati was born Taticheff, descended from a noble Russian family. His grandfather, Count Dimitri, had been a general in the Imperial Army and had served as military attaché to the Russian Embassy in Paris. His father, Emmanuel Taticheff, was a well-to-do picture framer who conducted his business in the fashionable Rue de Castellane and had taken a Dutch-Italian woman...
 
14.
Audrey Tautou
Actress, Amélie
Audrey Justine Tautou was born on August 9, 1976 in Beaumont, France, to Evelyne Marie Laure (Nuret), a teacher, and Bernard Tautou, a dental surgeon. Audrey showed an interest for comedy at an early age and started her acting lessons at 'Cours Florent'. In 1998 she won the best young actress award in the ninth 'Jeune Comedien de Cinema Festival' in Bezier...
 
15.
Simone Signoret
Actress, Diabolique
The face of Simone Signoret on the Paris Metro movie posters in March 1982 looked even older than her 61 years. She was still a box office draw, but the film, L'étoile du Nord, would be her last theatrical release. She played the landlady. Signoret had a long film apprenticeship during World War II, mostly as an extra and occasionally getting to speak a single line...
 
16.
Charles Boyer
Actor, Gaslight
Charles Boyer studied philosophy before he went to the theater where he gave his debut in 1920. Although he had at first no intentions to pursue a career at the movies (his first movie was L'homme du large by Marcel L'Herbier) he used his chance in Hollywood after several filming stations all over Europe...
 
17.
Jean-Claude Brialy
One of the most popular and respected actors to come from the French "New Wave" film movement, Jean-Claude Brialy was born to a military family, which included one brother, in French colonial Algeria on March 30, 1933. Residing in various places while his father, a colonel with the French Army, went through the paces of his career...
 
18.
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche was born in Paris, France, to Monique Yvette Stalens, a director, teacher, and actress, and Jean-Marie Binoche, a sculptor, director, and actor. Her mother was born in Czestochowa, Poland, of French, Walloon Belgian, and Polish descent, while her father is French. Juliette was only 23 when she first attracted the attention of international film critics with The Unbearable Lightness of Being...
 
19.
Jean-Louis Barrault
Celebrated French stage actor/director/producer Jean-Louis Barrault was born on September 8, 1910. A superlative tragedian and mime, his dedication to both avant-garde and classical plays helped revive the French theatre after World War II, while presenting world premières of works by such playwrights as Samuel Beckett...
 
20.
Jean-Pierre Cassel
He made his movie debut at the invitation of Gene Kelly, who cast Cassel in the 1956 Paris-filmed seriocomedy The Happy Road. At least, that's what the press releases claimed; actually, the tall, elastic-faced Cassel had been plugging away in films on a minor basis since 1950. Shortly after, Cassel was perfectly cast in the naif title role in the 1958 film version of Voltaire's Candide...
 
21.
Vincent Cassel
Actor, Black Swan
Blue-eyed Vincent Cassel was born in Paris to a leading actor father, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and a journalist mother, Sabine Litique. Often labeled as a tough guy because of his roles, eclectic choices and talent have made of him a star of European cinema. First in La Haine, the young actor, actually coming from upper classes...
 
22.
Jean Reno
Jean Reno was born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez in Casablanca, Morocco, to Spanish parents (from Andalucía) who moved to North Africa to seek work. His father was a linotypist. Reno settled in France at 17. He began studying drama and has credits in French television and theater as well as films. His first two marriages both ended in divorce...
 
23.
Anne Parillaud
Anne Parillaud was born in Paris, France on May 6, 1960 and even though all her travels took her to many lands, is still a Paris resident. Anne studied ballet in school, and her first appearance was in the film Un amour de sable where she played "La jeune fille avec un petit chat" ("The girl with a kitten")...
 
24.
Alain Delon
Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon was born in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France, to Édith (Arnold) and Fabien Delon. His father was of French and Corsican Italian descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His parents divorced early on, and Delon had a stormy childhood, being frequently expelled from school...
 
25.
Danielle Darrieux
Actress, Persepolis
Danielle Darrieux was born in 1917 in Bordeaux, France, but raised in Paris. She was only 14 when she auditioned for a secondary role in Le bal: she got the part, and the producer offered her a five-year contract. She had her first romantic lead in La crise est finie and scored an international...
 
26.
Anouk Aimée
Actress,
She is the daughter of the actress Geneviève Sorya. In 1948 she played the part of Juliette in Les amants de Vérone. In the following years (fifties and beginning sixties) she made various films (e.g. Modigliani of Montparnasse and La Dolce Vita) but had only with Lola of Jacques Demy and A Man and a Woman of Claude Lelouch major success...
 
27.
Bourvil
At the age of three, André Zacharie Raimbourg and his family moved to a town in the region of Normandy called Bourville. He finished school at the age of 15 and began to work as a baker. He was already playing harmonica, mandoline and cornet when he engaged himself in a village band. In the beginning of 1940 while in the army making music-hall show for the troops...
 
28.
Maurice Chevalier
Actor, Gigi
Maurice Chevalier's first working job was as an acrobat, until a serious accident ended that career. He turned his talents to singing and acting, and made several short films in France. During World War I he enlisted in the French army. He was wounded in battle, captured and placed in a POW camp by the Germans...
 
29.
Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve was born October 22, 1943 in Paris, France. Her parents were actors. She made her movie debut in 1957, when she was thirteen and continued with small parts in minor films, until Roger Vadim gave her a meatier role in Vice and Virtue. But her breakthrough came with the excellent musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg...
 
30.
Louis de Funès
Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza was born on July 31, 1914, in Courbevoie, France. His father, named Carlos Luis de Funes de Galarza, was a former lawyer of Seville, Spain, who became a diamond cutter. His mother, named Leonor Soto Reguera, was of Spanish and Portugese extraction. Young Louis de Funès was fond of drawing and piano playing...
 
31.
Isabelle Huppert
Actress, Elle
Isabelle Huppert was born in 1953, in Paris, France, but spent her childhood in Ville d'Avray. Encouraged by her mother (who was a teacher of English), she followed the Conservatory of Versailles and won an acting prize for her work in Alfred de Musset's "Un caprice". She then studied at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique and followed an illustrious theatrical career...
 
32.
Jean Gabin
Jean-Alexis Moncorge started his career with 15 years at the theatre and debuted at the "Moulin Rouge" in Paris in 1929. Despite of his rude aspect he knew to be the gentleman of the French cinema in the time between the two World Wars. One of his most popular personalities was inspector Maigret. But he was also able to play all other kind of people: aristocrats...
 
33.
Jean Marais
Jean Marais was a popular French cinema actor and director who played over 100 roles in film and on television, and was also known for his many talents as a writer, painter and sculptor. He was born Jean Alfred Villain-Marais on December 11, 1913, in Cherbourg, France. His father practiced veterinarian medicine...
 
34.
Marcel Marceau
Marcel Marceau was the legendary mime, who survived the Nazi occupation, and saved many children in WWII. He was regarded for his peerless style pantomime, moving audiences without uttering a single word, and was known to the World as a "master of silence." He was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923...
 
35.
Gérard Depardieu
Actor, Life of Pi
Gérard Depardieu was born in Châteauroux, Indre, France, to Anne Jeanne Josèphe (Marillier) and René Maxime Lionel Depardieu, who was a metal worker and fireman. Young delinquent and wanderer in the past, Depardieu started his acting career at the small traveling theatre "Cafe de la Gare", along with Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou...
 
36.
Irène Jacob
This beautiful, dark-haired Swiss actress made a hit with a supporting role in her first film, as the piano teacher in Louis Malle's "Au revoir, les enfants" (1987). Educated in London and Geneva, and a Paris resident since the age of 18, Jacob became a promising starlet with her Malle success and followed...
 
37.
Marlène Jobert
Jobert was born in 1940 in Algeria. She studied drama and fine art in Paris, made her acting debut on the stage in 1963 and secured her first film role in Louis Malle's The Thief of Paris in 1966. Her big break came with her casting as "Elisabeth" in Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Féminin, in which she performed alongside Brigitte Bardot and Jean-Pierre Léaud...
 
38.
Jean-Pierre Léaud
Jean-Pierre Léaud is not everybody's cup of tea for sure, but will remain an important name in film history. As an actor he can be adored or hated for exactly the same reasons: he is one of those rare players that directors let improvise his dialogue, which gets on certain viewers' nerves while it fascinates others...
 
39.
Michel Simon
Actor, L'Atalante
The son of a sausage-maker, Michel Simon was conscripted into the Swiss Army at the start of World War I, but was thrown out through a combination of tuberculosis and general insubordination. He was variously a boxer, photographer, general handyman and right-wing anarchist, finally becoming a stage actor in Geneva in 1920...
 
40.
Marina Vlady
She had the makings of a blonde bombshell and could have ended up in film history annals as merely a second-rate Brigitte Bardot, but sex symbol Marina Vlady proved she was capable of much more. In her prime she was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a "Best Actress" award at the 1963 Cannes Film...
 
41.
Pierre Richard
Certainly one of France's supreme farceurs in the classic tradition, comedian Pierre Richard was born to an uppercrust family with an embarrassing riches of middle names as he was christened Pierre Richard Maurice Charles Leopold Defays. Working and building up his trade at the Paris Music Hall in the early years...
 
42.
Jean Rochefort
Actor, Ridicule
French character star Jean Rochefort expressed an interest in acting early in life. Born in 1930, he trained at the Paris Conservatoire but had to halt his studies due to military service. Relocating to Paris, he developed a minor name for himself in cabaret and stage plays. He also worked with the Grenier-Hussenot company at this time and acted in TV drama...
 
45.
 
46.
Brigitte Bardot
Actress, Contempt
Brigitte Bardot was born on September 28, 1934 in Paris, France. Her father had an engineering degree and worked with his father in the family business. Brigitte's mother encouraged her daughter to take up music and dance, and she proved to be very adept at it. By the time she was 15, Brigitte was trying a modeling career...
 
47.
Fernandel
The apocryphal biography of Fernand Contandin tells the invention of his artistic name Fernandel by his sister-in-law ("Voici le Fernand d'elles"). At the beginning of the thirties he became a typical actor of the comedy genre: popular, common, likable and with a concealed grain of drama. Marc Allégret was the director of his first successful film La meilleure bobonne...
 
48.
Jacques Perrin
He started out as romantic hero full of beauty and talent in Girl with a Suitcase beside Claudia Cardinale. Director Valerio Zurlini engaged the talented young actor for his Family Portrait as Marcello Mastroianni's brother. Jacques Perrin's longtime work with Director 'Constantin Costa-Gavras' started with Compartiment tueurs and Un uomo a metà in which he had played the sensible heroes...
 
49.
Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, MO, in 1906 to Carrie McDonald, a laundress, and Eddie Carson, a musician. Her early life hinted at her future career. She first danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels and dimes. Later she became a chorus girl on the St...
 
50.
Mylène Demongeot
Actress, Fantomas
Mylène Demongeot, one of the blond sex symbols of French cinema during the 1950s and 1960s, managed to overcome typecasting and survived a long hiatus before a stellar comeback in her 70s. She appeared in more than 70 films, including such classics as the Fantomas trilogy. She was born Marie-Helene Demongeot on September 29...